Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I Feel So Disconnected...

Feeling disconnected.  It has been quite some time since my last posting and something nudge me to come this way today.  I was preparing for this evenings support group meeting, looking for fresh material and an opening prayer or poem to welcome those who are returning or joining us for the first time, when a question caught my eye.  Do you have feelings of being disconnected?  If yes, from whom or what?  (Taken from A Gathering of Angels by Victoria Leland, RN in collaboration with five grieving mothers).  Followed by: What things can you do to help yourself (1) stay connected to your baby*, (2) feel okay about yourself during the time of disconnect with others, and (3) reconnect with others when you are ready?  *For me I simply substituted the word baby with daughter/child, you can simply change it to your loved one to represent whomever has died in your life.  

Do you feel disconnected?  For so many of us who have suffered through the death of a loved one, regardless of our relationship with them, we do so feel totally separated from the world around us.  For me the loss of a child, left me avoiding families that were still intact.  After my dad died, I felt little in common with those who's father was still alive and after the death of my last surviving grandparent I felt like I could never be loved in the way that only they could love me.  You get my drift.  These are very real and very normal feelings to experience after the death of a loved one.  We no longer feel whole, and seeing others who have what we so desperately long to have again leaves us feeling alone and isolated, totally disconnected from the world.  Add to that the feelings of no longer being able to see, touch or hear our loved one in the physical realm, seems to further widen this disconnection. The whoms or whats are numerous and vary with the relationship we had with our loved ones, what they brought into our lives, and who we were when we were with them. 

So how do we bridge this disconnect?  Amazingly after almost 8 years after my daughter Rachel's death, I feel more connected to her now than I ever did before.  She has become an integral part of my very being, and is never very far from my thoughts and daily routine.  Her memory lives on in so many ways in my life, and her love of life is reflected so beautifully in the faces and actions of my grandchildren.  And just when I feel lonely or saddened by a sudden memory or other trigger, I am gently reminded that she is near.  For instance just yesterday morning as I reached for the handle of my car door I spied a penny lying on the ground, as I bent down to pick it up I silently whispered Good Morning Rachel.  As I started the engine, I could not help but smile as a feeling of comfort and warmth flooded over me. 

But this was not always the case for me.  In the first few months and years, I felt totally alone, totally out of sync with the world and those around me.  In time I learned to accept that this was normal and okay.  By allowing myself to become disconnected from the day to day world around me, I gave myself the space I needed to heal, to accept and to recognize the beauty that had come into my life with the birth of my daughter.  During this time, I allowed my self to question, to cry, to be angry, and to even allow myself bouts of self-pity.  It was during this time of deep awareness that I came to fully understand who I was, what mattered most to me, and what choices only I could make.  It was not always easy, I sometimes did not like the person staring back at me in the mirror, and there were times that retreating from the world seemed like the best option  But I can honestly say, if I had not allowed my self that space to unplug myself from life, I would probably still be spinning out of control even now.  

The beauty of accepting the 'disconnect' was that it gave me time to understand my grief, to get to know the person I was becoming, and to get acclimated to the new 'normal' in my life.  To a life without my eldest daughter Rachel physically in it and to the possibilities that only Rachel's death could bring into my life.  So when I was 'ready to reconnect' with the world, it was on my terms, with a new perspective on life, a renewed sense of purpose and a resolve to help others who were grieving too. 

For those of you who are trying to be there for someone who is grieving the death of a loved one,  the greatest gift you can give them is space.  Be understanding and compassionate when they tell you that can't go to a party, or be with others.  They may not be able to face the reminders of what is so sharply missing from their lives.  In time they will come around, just let them know you are there for them and are willing to just sit, listen or simply hold their hand.  

Grief is not easy, it takes time and is definitely hard work, and each and everyone of us grieves very differently.  So embrace the disconnection, learn to forge new connections with your deceased loved ones, and reconnect on your terms and in your way.  But most importantly, just know that you are not alone, ever, your loved one is always with you, for love is not governed by death and it finds it's way even through the murkiest darkness. 

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Dancing in the Sky...

Often artists and writers will capture our feelings in their lyrics and words, 
the following song by Dani & Lizzy do just that and more...'Dancing in the Sky'...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Support Group Article

Recently the support group I facilitate was highlighted in our local diocesan newspaper 'The Anchor.' 

Making great strides to help others as they struggle to make sense of all the confusion that often comes with the death of a loved one.  Through our own losses, we can often find the strength to reach out to others with compassion and empathy, not because we have become experts, but because we have come to understand our loss and that this is not a journey to be taken alone.

The following is the link to the article:
Photo by Rose Mary Saraiva


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Taking that First Step!

Why is grief so hard to talk about?  Why do people try to act like it doesn't exist?  Or worse yet, if it is not acknowledged, it will eventually go away!  If only that last statement were true!

The only way to handle grief is to talk about it, to express those feelings, to give some sort of direction to the confusion that you feel, and to just know you are not alone.  Grief exists, it does not simply go away or vanish into thin air if people act like it never happened.  For me, it has been almost seven years now since Rachel passed away, and I still talk about missing her, and wishing she were here right now.  My pain has eased, and the grief no longer is debilitating, but there is still a longing.  Gratefully this longing has been filled by a deep knowledge that my daughter walks beside me each and every day, a constant presence in my life. 

What helped me then, and continues to help, was finding a person or persons who were willing to just listen, even when my words were mere ramblings.  People who let me share my story and Rachel's story, people who did not judge or look down at me because of my words and actions.  Individuals who looked beyond the outer trappings of my grief, recognizing the hurting person within my outward shell. 

It is not always easy to find such support, but one must keep searching, eventually you will find a person or persons who willingly walk beside you.  These individuals can range from family members, close friends or even strangers.  They can come in the form of counseling or support groups. They can be found in your work, school or faith community.  Hospitals, doctors and other health care facilities offer help or can direct you to support systems.  The key is to take that first step, and utter those words that for me were one of the hardest to say, "I need help!"  "I can't do this alone." 

Even after admitting I needed help, it took me several times before fear, anger and pushing my pride aside, allowed me to let the help I so desperately needed to begin to bear fruit.  It took three sessions with my counselor to finally realize she only wanted to help.  It took three attempts before I finally walked into my first support group.  And it took two or three sessions before I felt comfortable enough to share with the group. 

Anything that alters our lives in any way, requires us to re-adjust routines, or creates a change in us, takes time.   Regardless of the cause of the changes, we have to face our hopes and dreams, our fears and uncertainties, and sometimes learn to walk all over again.  Taking baby steps, until we are able to walk boldly and even begin to run again. 

Remember to give yourself time and to give that helping hand a chance to make a difference in your life.  Don't be afraid to meet it half way, or if that is hard, to allow it all the way into your life. 

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Rachel's Here!

It's been a while since I have posted, life just gets a little hectic sometimes.  I have been facilitating a bereavement support group, started contributing to a local newspaper and taking classes, no excuse but it has been crazy. 

In all my busyness however, Rachel is never far from my thoughts, her presence is felt each and every waking moment, and occasionally in a dream or two.  It seems that as I step further into acceptance, she is so much more present to me.  It is hard to explain, it is a heart-felt knowledge, it does not mean I don't miss her, trust me, I do, it is just that I know she is with me.  It is as if our hearts are communicating, her soul is reaching out and hugging mine. 

When I share this with others, they will smile, shake their heads, but often I see uncertainty, a silent, really!  Yet when I speak to others who have been on this wild roller coaster ride longer, they fully understand what I am talking about, they know exactly what I mean. 

How did I get to this place?  There is no exact time frame, no aha moment, it just seemed to be a slow awareness.  One thing I do know, is I began to truly sense her presence when I started to let go.  Let me tell you, that was one of the hardest things to do.  Like so many I have spoken to, the letting go was the scariest time of all.  All of a sudden you realize that a few years have slipped away, your loved one has been 'gone' now for a while; and you have somehow began to live again.  Suddenly, you panic, you begin to wonder - am I forgetting them?  What if I can't remember what they looked like, sounded like, felt like, etc., what if I can't remember anything at all about them? 

As your wrestle with these new found fears, you find yourself slipping backwards just a little.  For me there were fresh tears, sleepless nights, and confusion.  It was by no means, debilitating, just a slow oozing from healing wounds.  It was as, if there were pain again, I wouldn't forget, I would be reminded, Rachel would not be slipping away. 

As I faced these fears, yet again, I began to let go, to trust that somehow I would be okay.  As for the day or time, was I doing a certain thing, was I at a specific location...I couldn't say.  All I know was that suddenly my fears seemed to subside, and I begin to not only believe those words I would say to everyone; 'Rachel is always with me,' I was now feeling and sensing her presence.  A comfort began to envelope me lending credence to the Bible passage "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Mt 5:4); as I felt a renewed sense of purpose, a newly found strength, and an awareness that I could now truly help others who were mourning.  After all, I had survived, and made it some how, I had come through the darkness.

This rebirth of sorts gave me so much to look forward to, knowing that no matter what lies ahead Rachel is not and will not be forgotten (at least not by me).  This new person that I have become, will truly never be the same person she was 7 years ago, and hopefully the lessons learned have taught me well.  Yes, there will still be so many events and firsts in my life, that I will feel the sadness that Rachel is not physically present to share them with us.  But my heart now knows that she is and will always be present.  My family and I just recently were seated around the dinner table, talking, laughing and playing a board game, when suddenly through all the laughter, we heard Rachel's laughter.  We all heard it, and each of us looked at each other and said, Rachel's here.  

So do not worry, your loved one is very much a part of your life, and in time you too, will begin to listen, hear and see with your heart.  Your very essence, your soul, will begin to feel your loved one in ways that will bring you comfort, will surround you in love, filling you with a peace you never thought you would know again.  Letting go, letting them live their new life, does not mean they will be forgotten, on the contrary, they will be an intricate part of your very being.

Remember, you are not alone, those we loved and lost walk beside us each and every day.  

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas Rachel

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!  

The holidays can be difficult, as so many things can trigger memories.  For me, even though this is the seventh Christmas without Rachel, I still have a hard time.  In the wee hours of Christmas morning, I found myself unable to sleep, truly missing my daughter.  As the tears flowed unbidden, I longed to have her near.  

Recent events of the tragedy that befell Sandy Hook has reminded me of what is missing in my life.  As I thought of all those parents, both young and old, who this holiday would not be able to watch their child open gifts, my heart sank.  My heart longed to reach out to them, knowing full well the emptiness that is staring them squarely in the face.  Of unopened gifts, of promises broken, dreams left unfulfilled, and of all the doubt and confusion that we are left with.  

As a parent, the loss of a child is beyond anything we can explain, it is a hurt and pain that we carry with us always.  Each passing year eases the ache, but we still feel the absence.  Yet, in my hurt I feel the warmth of Rachel's love, her endearing presence, and I know in my heart of hearts that she is near, that she is with me always.  

A beautiful song was sung at the Christmas Eve Mass, that pulled at my heart strings: 

 When Love Was Born by Mark Schultz

Starlight shines, the night is still
Shepherds watch from a hill
I close my eyes, see the night
When love was born

Perfect child gently waits
A mother bends to kiss God's face
I close my eyes, see the night
When love was born

Angels fill the midnight sky, they sing
Hallelujah, He is Christ, our King

Emmanuel, Prince of peace
Loves come down for you and me
Heaven's gift, the holy spark
To let the way inside our hearts

Bethlehem, through your small door
Came the hope we've waited for
The world was changed forevermore
When love was born

I close my eyes, see the night
When love was born

As I listen to the lyrics, as I tried to sing along, the words of the second stanza gripped me, and all I could think of was the night Rachel was born, and how an unbelievable love had entered into my life.  The love of mother and child, a love that allows us to look beyond any imperfection to see, truly see, the beauty that lies within.  A love that reaches beyond the the grave, a love that conquers all, a love that even death cannot diminish, but rather grows even stronger.

Rachel, like your loved one, may be gone from sight, but the love that permeates our very being, lets us know that they are very near.  That they are very much a presence in our lives, and that we are forever changed, because they were a major part of it.  It is the memories that they created, that help me and so many others, face the holidays and special events.  It is the cherished traditions, and the start of new ones dedicated to the memory of our loved one, that see us through.  Let these memories bring you comfort, let them fill you with love and joy, and if they bring a tear or two, let them flow; allow the healing to begin.

Merry Christmas Rachel, and to all those who are spending their first Christmas in heaven.  Let your love pour down on us all, keep us all safe, and hold us gently as we travel through our grief.

Blessings! and until we meet again.